The World's Oldest Marathoner Fauja Singh has announced that he will be hanging up his running shoes after the Hong Kong Marathon in February. However, don't expect the 101-year-old endurance runner to simply spend his retirement lounging around. Singh says that he will continue to run for four hours each day, totaling eight to nine miles.
Singh is, by all accounts, a relative latecomer to the sport of running. In fact, he began his marathon career at the ripe age of 89. Still, he admitted to the Times of India that his age is starting to catch up with him. He says that he would not have stopped, except for the fact that he has hit triple digits. In October 2011, at the age of 100, he completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 8 hours 11 seconds.
Singh became an instant celebrity in marathon circles due, at least in part, to his appearance. Mr. Singh is Sikh, and sports a turban and long white beard when he runs. He credits his longevity to his diet. "I take happiness in biggest proportions though my actual diet is very small," he said.
However, Singh's celebrity has been marred slightly by the Guinness Book of World Records. Though he says that he was born on April 1, 1911 and he has a passport and other official documents that say the same, the world record book refuses to acknowledge him as the oldest marathon runner because he has no birth certificate.
Harmander Singh, Fauja Singh's trainer, accused the association of practicing institutional racism since, as Singh was born in a rural area in Punjab, birth certificates were generally not administered. "A recent United Nations report on children said that 40 per cent of children born in 2008 didn't have a birth certificate, meaning developing countries," he said to the Telegraph at the time of the controversy. "If people nowadays still don't have birth certificates, what do you think it was like 100 years ago?"
The furor has made little impact on Fauja Singh, however. A British national, he was the United Kingdom's oldest Olympic torchbearer last year, according to TIME magazine. "I did not even know what the Guinness Book of Records was until someone told me," he said via a translator. "It doesn't matter to me as I just enjoy the running and everyone I know has been so pleased or inspired by it, and that is all that matters. I can't read, anyway."